Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mennonite girl cooks with Mennonite Girls

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WHEN a Mennonite girl -- ah, woman -- interviews members of the Mennonite Girls Can Cook blog, it's a sure thing there will be more than just talk of food.

So I tucked my apron in my bag along with my notebook and pens before I head out to Betty Reimer's home in the southern edge of Steinbach, prepared to attempt whatever recipe Reimer and fellow Mennonite Girl Charlotte Penner have chosen for the day.

"There's no need to be intimidated," Penner assures me as I join them in the kitchen. "We're just regular people and we don't have all the answers."

Both admit the fame of collaborating on a best-selling cookbook has elevated their status slightly among friends and strangers, and some longtime friends might be slightly reluctant to cook for them, says Reimer.

"It's almost like they don't want to invite you over for a meal," she says.

As the pair prepares two dishes from their hot-off-the-press Celebrations cookbook, they assign this Mennonite girl to shaking together oil, vinegar, maple syrup and seasonings for a salad dressing.

When we sit down at Reimer's dining table to eat a late lunch of puff pastry pinwheels and pear salad, she invokes the memory of her father as she pauses to speak a blessing on the meal.

"My dad always said if it was worth more than 25 cents, it was worth saying grace," Reimer quips.

"It's worth far more than 25 cents," adds Penner.

What is invaluable about this meal is the easy conversation that follows, ranging from cameras to pet projects and passions, interspersed with compliments to the cooks and talk of even more recipes.

Yes, these Mennonite women are really great cooks, but they're even more skilled at putting their guests at ease around the dinner table. That's a menu worth serving up again and again.

-- Brenda Suderman

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 20, 2013 J5

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